3.19 PCA


Strategic planning has been a topic of discussion in the club industry for decades, yet many clubs never accepted the challenge such planning entails. Nevertheless consultants to clubs continue to emphasize the importance of strategic planning. They see strategic planning as the way for clubs to remain financially stable and relevant to a population that is growing more demanding of its institutions and offerings. 

“A strategic plan is a written document that identifies the club’s current mission as well as its future vision,” according to Frank Vain of The McMahon Group, a club facilities planning firm. “It serves as a road map for a club as it travels along in five-year increments towards its future.” Vain said a comprehensive strategic plan includes:

External market research so the group in charge of planning, ideally the board of directors in a member-owned club, has a grasp of key demographic and competitive factors.

Research among existing members through surveys and focus groups to determine how the members feel about the club and where they see it headed.

A SWOT analysis (club strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

Development of action plans to address key issues facing the club.

Vain added that a strategic plan should be updated annually (a good way to keep succeeding administrations focused and on target), and fully revisited every five years.



Today’s fast paced tech savvy society is often called The Experience Economy, which references the ever rising expectations of customers coupled with the desire for memorable experiences rather than physical possessions (See “Managing Expectations” PCA September, 2018). 

The Experience Economy is forcing clubs to prioritize creating unparalleled experiences for their members over simply providing great service, quality amenities or good membership value. According to Henry DeLozier of Global Golf Advisors, “The memory itself becomes the product and in private clubs today, members relish an unforgettable experience far more than a bargain.” Different from the past, members now relate membership value to the club’s ability to deliver memorable experiences to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Experiences in this context are preplanned activities or events that are packed full of emotional, memorable, sharable impressions that are difficult for others to duplicate. “The key to this entire concept is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” DeLozier explained. Club executives and operators must shift their focus from simply ensuring enjoyable experiences (dining at the club, great round of golf, good tennis lesson, etc.) to building opportunities for members to establish stories. When members (and their families) become part of a holistic experience, they become part of a story and that is when a positive and lasting memory is formed. 

The sky is the limit as each club has endless opportunities to create experiences that speak directly to member perception of value. “Club leaders will find the greatest success in innovative ideas, unforgettable experiences and fresh new concepts that are unique to their club and community,” DeLozier concluded.